Monday, January 28, 2008

Desultory musing on the (rapidly vanishing) GOP hopefuls

By jeffaclitus

I know I'm awfully late with any kind of commentary on the primaries of either party, especially here, where there's already been so many great posts written about so many different aspects of the two campaigns. It'd be intimidating, if I planned to say anything of substance. Instead, of course, I'm going to do what I do best, mock various well-known people as ruthlessly as I can. So, here we go.

The main that jumps out at me from watching the GOP primaries and especially the (early) debates is that this really is the party of the ignorant and the imbecile. How else to explain the extent to which the debates were shaped and dominated by Tom Tancredo, a one-note demagogue who in a previous life was no doubt an intern at Der St
ΓΌrmer (an unpaid intern, mind you -- I don't think he's intelligent enough to draw a paycheck as anything other than a politician)? Watching the various GOP hopefuls (with the honorable exception of John McCain) fall all over themselves seeing who could say "illegal" and "alien" the most often was pretty sickening. But, as I've written before here, this is the (new?) identity of the Republican Party. The ethos that dominates much of the party (also known as its base) is one that's obsessed with finding enemies to fear and hate (earlier jeffaclitus: "They preach nothing but perpetual and cancerous fear of an enemy so sinister and terrifying that he is at once both ubiquitous and invisible"). For a while, the Republicans were able to make real political hay out of casting the terrorist -- and, to a lesser extent, the gay -- in that role. Now, however, you can't really mention scary Middle Eastern terrorists without reminding everyone of Iraq, something which, even with the relative calm of the last few months, the GOP contenders seem very loath to do. Enter the "illegal alien."

Of course, if people really want to "stem the tide" of illegal immigration into this country, it would be easy. Just pass the necessary laws to ensure -- no, wait, no need to pass any laws. Just make sure that agricultural, construction, landscape, kitchen, etc. workers are paid the minimum wage. Target the employers, not the workers. Get rid of the demand, and the supply will disappear of its own accord. Oh, and get ready to pay fifteen dollars for a head of lettuce. (Not to make this all about me or anything, but I've written before about attempts to replace undocumented farm workers with prisoners; even if you have no moral qualms about using inmate labor, it doesn't work, because agricultural labor is skilled labor). Seriously, if you really want to stop illegal immigration, wouldn't you attack the demand, rather than the supply, which obviously will be there as long as there's demand? Just like if you wanted to stop drug abuse, wouldn't you attack the demand, and put addicts in treatment and decriminalize non-addictive drugs, rather than pissing into the wind by trying to stop the infinite supply? It's almost like there's some political advantage to be gained by fighting a never-ending "War on Drugs" (and, coming soon, a "War on Illegals"?).

As for the other candidates, of course I want Mike Huckabee to win the nomination, not only because he's probably the least electable, but because I think Mike Huckabee in a general election would be comedy gold. Speaking of which, what's with Chuck Norris in these primaries? Seriously, the other night I watched part of the debate, and I swear Chuck Norris was mentioned more than Iraq and Social Security combined. Then there was Huckabee's speech after he won in Iowa. Wasn't that Chuck Norris standing behind him? I mean, I get it that you want celebrity endorsements, and apparently in his commercials, Norris parodied the Chuck Norris facts. That's good; you need your Chuck Norris ironic, otherwise you look like you're all, "I got the stars of the Hallmark Channel, bitches!!!" (though I suppose the stars of the Hallmark Channel appeal more to the average GOP voter than, say, John Waters or Chris "Ludacris" Bridges). But to have Norris with you on the podium after you win the first primary? Just seems a bit much.

Then there's Rudy Giuliani, the Wesley Clark of this election. I think he could have convincingly run as the strongest and most reliable liberal Democrat on social issues, and used his credibility as a crime fighter and his claims about managing New York's economy to distinguish himself from the other candidates. Instead, he's chosen to run as the "No, seriously, I really like torture" candidate. A little depressing.

Then there's Mitt. Every time I see him look into the camera with his smarmy, unctuous smile and wriggle his way out answering another question with some utterly vacuous piece of pabulum, I feel the strong need to take a shower. He's by far the most vacuous of the candidates, whether for good or for ill -- oh, wait, I forgot about Fred Thompson. Before he dropped out, he was a true delight to behold in the debates. Whatever the question was, whether it was about global warming, NAFTA, foreign policy, or, really, anything else, Thompson would just refuse to say anything of substance at all. It was, in its way, deeply impressive. But what was funny was how pompous he was about all if it. Unlike Mitt, he doesn't so much pander as posture. The accents and cadences of his speech made it clear that he was trying to pose as some kind of elder statesmen; apparently no one told him that you can't really be an elder statesmen when you have no substance and no principle. I actually do a pretty good impression of Thompson (not kind as good as my Dr. Phil, perhaps, but still pretty funny), and I'm sorry to see him leaving.

On that note, the proud admission that I view national politics purely in terms of my own solipsistic amusement, I bid you good day.

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